Morocco gets on my goat!

Morocco gets on my goat!

This is not fake news or fake photos. There we were, driving along a flat, dry part of the western Moroccan landscape dotted with small farm houses and solitary argan trees (agania spinosa), endemic to Morocco.

I squinted at the tree in the distance, with its limbs spread out in the sun and great clumps of wooly white stuff mid branches.

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As we drew closer I doubled up with laughter – goats up a tree. I had never seen such a thing.

On top of a tree! Here, in the south-west of Morocco, in North Africa where the plants and trees are far apart and fewer, goats use their climbing skills to find their food. Here the animals have climbed up an argan tree to get to the fresh fruit at the top. They can climb an impressive 8-10 metres to do this.

The good oil

Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to Morocco. In Morocco, argan oil is used to dip bread in at breakfast or to drizzle on couscous or pasta.

Argan oil is rich in essential fatty acids, and has moisturising, anti-aging and antioxidant properties. … in short, it promises results as a powerful anti-wrinkle cream. (I hope this works!)

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Moroccan argan oil is made from the seed of the Argan tree), a native to the Souss-Massa-Drâa region of Morocco and Algeria. While the traditional method allows the goats to process the nuts first, as this softens the husk, some Berber women will hand-pick and open the nut to get at the seed.

The trees often grow to up to 8 metres and the goats have no qualms about moving along the thorny branches in search of the tree’s bitter fruit.

The argan fruit resembles a shriveled golden apple. The fruit is firm, has a thick peel and contains the fleshy pulp around an almond-shaped nut that looks like a dried olive.

The crazy tree goats love the pulp. They eat the whole fruit despite the fact that their bodies can’t digest the nut. Greedy goats!

The argan nuts pass through the digestive system of the goats and once they are excreted, people gather them from the droppings and crack them open to expose the seeds inside.

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The production and marketing of argan oil is a valuable resource for Morocco – economically and for education. Stats (compiled by the University of California) of enrolment data from 1981-2010 concluded that the rise in production of argan oil is directly linked to an increase in Moroccan girls being able to attend secondary school.

And back to goats in trees  . . . even after feeding their faces, the goats hang around on the branches of the trees just looking out at the horizon . . . excellent for photography and tourism.

Writer, Bev Malzard was smitten by the goats-in-trees phenomenon and grabbed a baby goat to cuddle while standing under the tree. She took the goat to Marrakech, bought it dinner, a new cardigan and a phone card. But nothing persuaded the animal to get on a plane to travel to Australia. Goat’s loss! Malzard is currently under arrest for trying to smuggle a baby donkey into Oz, will she never learn?

Travel to Morocco with http://www.bypriorarrangement.com

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Drumming up light and love

Drumming up light and love
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Something happened to me in my mid 30s (a few years ago now) I stopped doing any regular exercise. I had dabbled in yoga and even had personal trainer for a short while. And as a teenager, had played competitive squash and tennis. But time and work and the party life offered little useful movement and the promise of sedentary comfort.
But over the past couple of years with decades of sitting on my bum in front of a computer, travelling and sampling the best food in the world . . . my weight ballooned and my fitness added up to being breathless while walking up slight inclines.
So, with a changed work routine, less time at the computer, I now walk as much as I can and spend time at the local pool doing aqua aerobics.
I’m feeling damn good these days, better energy and actually motivated to move more.
Recently I went to a yoga retreat for a couple of days with a group of amazing women. Yoga, schmoga! I liked the idea of it but draw the line when I see pictures of people yoga- ing in various locations from around the world.
Anyway, I did the weekend, attended half the yoga classes (bit old and stiff to fully immerse) and enjoyed the weekend immensely.
Aside from brilliant vegan food – yes – brilliant – created by the ‘laughing chef’ which I went back for seconds, there’s the  drumming circle.
Now, in the past I had, I admit, put crap over the ‘wimmins’ drumming circles. But full of peace and love by way of Happy Buddha Retreat I surrendered to the drumming experience.
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Wow.
What a wonderful experience, bashing, tapping, humming and smiling as wide as the Megalong Valley I am a convert. There’s absolutely nothing that can’t be shaken off, damped down or moved out of your mind while the drum rhythm is vibrating through your hands, body and mind.
The beds here are comfy, you can share or have your own room, there’s an ensuite bathroom, a swimming pool and peaceful grounds for relaxing and breathing in the pure mountain air.
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Jeevi, originally from Nepal is known as the Laughing Chef and prepares the Happy Buddha Retreats’ brilliant dishes. 
Below is some information on a weekend away to immerse yourself in the drumming circle.
This is not a sponsored post, I don’t get paid to talk up these types of experiences – it’s just that I loved it and want to share the happy vibes of the Happy Buddha Retreat. I caught the train from Sydney to Wentworth Falls, about 90 minutes or so from Sydney. The drive is quick and easy and there’s parking.
I may even head back there again myself. Drumming yes, but not the downward dog, who has time when there’s vegan curries to eat . . .

 

Coffee clutch or . . . get some caffeine into you.

Coffee clutch or . . . get some caffeine into you.

Coffee snob? Think that cafe latte is the one and only? When you take a sip of this beautiful beverage it’s about the shot, the kick, the blend, so take a chance and discover other coffee styles.

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Australia has one of the most eclectic, thriving food scenes around and a cafe culture to match. So naturally, we don’t mess around when it comes to coffee. But do we know our way around the world’s coffees? Read on.

1 ITALIAN CAPPUCCINO

This splendidly evolved cuppa is named after the Capuchin friars’ cloaks. The word ‘cappuccio’ means ‘hood’ in Italian, and the ‘-ino’ ending makes it what’s called the ‘diminutive’.

In other words, instead of just meaning ‘hood,’ ‘cappuccino’ means ‘little hood’.

It’s because of the hoods worn by a particular order of Franciscan monks which was founded in the early 16th century that they were given this moniker – Capuchin monks, or “Cappuccini” in Italian.

The wonderful beverage is: double espresso with steamed milk creating a lovely ‘crema’. (Italians do not drink cappuccino after midday.)

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2 GREEK COFFEE

This is a strong brew, served with foam on the top and the grounds in the bottom of the cup

Strong ground powdered coffee spooned into a briki (Greek coffee pot), water added with a little sugar, boiled and stirred roughly. The ‘crema’ is a shiny foaming surface. Served in tiny cups and downed in two sips. (Order cafe metreo for a little sugar included.)

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3 VIENNA COFFEE

An indulgent traditional drink made with two shots of black espresso in a standard size cup and infusing the coffee with a generous amount of whipped cream. Swirl the cream and dust with chocolate sprinkles. Expect this elegant coffee to arrive at your table served on a small silver tray accompanied by a glass of water.

https://www.wien.gv.at/english/culture-history/viennese-coffee-culture.html

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4 NOUS-NOUS, MOROCCO

“Nous-Nous’ is Arabic for ‘half-half’, half coffee, half hot milk. A strong, tasty drink served in a little glass tumbler.

5.VIETNAM’S EGG COFFEE

Everyone at Hanoi’s humble Cafe Giang have come for “cà phê trúng,” or egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty of a creamy soft, meringue-like egg white foam perched on dense Vietnamese coffee. Nguyen Van Giang invented the recipe while working as a bartender at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel in 1946. There was a shortage of fresh milk then, so whisked egg yolk was used as a substitute.

“All the foreigners and the Vietnamese in the hotel liked it,” says Van Dao. So he decided to leave the hotel to start selling egg coffee and create his own brand.

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6 BALI COFFEE

Or ‘Cat Poo’ coffee. Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee, produced from the coffee beans which have been digested by a civet cat that selects the finest, ripest coffee cherries to eat. It can’t digest the stone (the coffee bean) and poos them out, its anal glands imparting an elusive musky smoothness to the roasted coffee.

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And for coffee fiends there’s so much more . . .the heady Turkish coffee, Kahve; the Ethiopian Ceremonial coffee; the Ipoh white coffee of Malaysia . . .and the all-time great Australian flat white. A shot of espresso and hot milk, no adornment. Drink up!

Writer, Bev Malzard could not find a picture of Morocco’s nous-nous nor has she ever tasted it . . . but . . . next month she’ll be in Morocco and will hunt this coffee down. Watch this space.

All images from @unsplash http://www.unsplash.com

 

 

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Street wise: Hanoi, Vietnam

Street wise: Hanoi, Vietnam

www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.comA quick fix blog this week as I am away on a yoga retreat in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney (I knoooow, what was I thinking) and am short on blogging time this week. A post on the yoga experience might even make its way here if I survive bending, stretching and being ‘mindful’. Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe maybe.

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One of my fave shots: there’s always a bride waiting to be photographed.

So, following on from last week’s Vietnam cruise story here are a few images I snapped in Hanoi pre and post the cruise. What an amazing city is it; brim to overflowing with personality, pragmatism and sassiness. The French colonial theme still stands in some quarters with rather lovely buildings, parks and he aroma of freshly baked bread . . .which is the legacy the Vietnamese were happy to retain once the colonialists had departed.

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IMG_1655IMG_1653Spot the tourist.

 

Writer, Bev Malzard has visited Hanoi several times and the last visit she stayed at super posh Hanoi Metropole Hotel, a divine establishment breathing history and charm. Here she cosies up to one of the doormen who gave her cheek every day, and she gave back as good as she got.

 

IMG_2753http://www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.com

 

USA – and the Mile High City

USA – and the Mile High City

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Dating back to the Old West era, Denver is definitely oh, so 21st century.

Denver, the capital of Colorado, features landmark 19th-century buildings, museums that include the Denver Art Museum, an ultramodern complex known for its collection of indigenous works, and the mansion of famed Titanic survivor Molly Brown.

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Denver is also a jumping-off point for ski resorts in the nearby Rocky Mountains. It’s a university town and there’s a lot of sporty stuff going on here. And in Denver you will find the highest concentration of recreational marijuana stores in Colorado, with a large number of select stores selling recreational and medical marijuana. Marijuana stores in Denver are required to close by 10pm. See https://www.coloradopotguide.com/where-to-buy-marijuana/colorado/denver/ just sayin’ (it is legal).

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It’s called the Mile High City because it is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (1.6km).

I believe that as the cowboys galloped into town all those years ago and helped grow this city, it was today’s hipsters who moseyed into town in their electric cars, swishing their pony tails that have put the edge on Denver.

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It’s always been known as a friendly, easygoing place but the hospitality bar has been raised up and up.

The local Beer Trail boasts an extraordinary craft beer culture – home to Colorado’s oldest and largest beer pubs, and if the beery brew isn’t to your taste there’s a slew of cafes serving coffee that even Aussie coffee snobs approve of.

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If you are a Super Bowl fan this is the home of the Denver Broncos and their home is the Mile High Stadium which is open for a walking tour through the hallowed halls.

The main drag is the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian and transit mall is 1.25 miles long, runs along 16th Street in downtown Denver. Stroll it and shop, stop and eat or drink or catch the free tram from one end to the other.

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And at the end, cross the road to visit the Union Station, a splendid example of 19th century architecture. Once a bustling transit institution and as roads and flight took goods across the nation, the station’s use declined. But it’s now back in business as a bus and rail terminal and a lovely hotel is inside the original building as Crawford Hotel. The main hall is now a café, bar, lounge area full of gentle buzzing conversation and good vibes. Everyone welcome as long as you ‘be nice’. Union Station is located in LoDo (Lower Downtown), Denver’s vibrant oldest neighbourhood – check out the city’s best known restaurants, galleries, shops, and boutiques.

 

Just outside of town is the amazing natural amphitheatre Red Rocks where everyone from Bruce Springsteen to U2 have performed. To see a concert here is an out of body experience. The sun goes down, the rocks surrounding you are in sharp contrast to the blackening sky, the lights go up and the music begins!

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Culture rules in Denver from high to low – rock to symphony, traditional art to an outdoor gallery of topical wall art, fast food to high table cuisine.

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Denver has been the subject of many songs by famous artists especially native son the late John Denver, but my fave is by Jimmy Buffet:

I’m about a mile high in Denver
Where the rock meets timberline 
I’ve walked this ground from town to town 
Just to finally call it mine

Writer, Bev Malzard squealed when she found out she was going to a concert at Red Rocks to see local boys made good – One Republic (Shooting Stars) . . . oh what a night.  And would recommend anyone who enjoys music of any sort to do some research before you travel anywhere and book seats for a concert so you can immerse yourself totally in the music, the scene and with the locals.

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME LAX-DEN 2hrs 20 mins

BEST TIME TO VISIT April through May and September through October. The city’s shoulder seasons are characterized by comfortable temperatures,

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Plenty of street art around town, this bold pour of milk splash is coming from the Dairy Market building.

https://www.denver.org/

 

Singapore: Shophouses shine

Singapore: Shophouses shine
There was a time in Singapore when everything old is old again and must be torn down. After the devastation of Singapore during WWII, the region struggled to rebuild and restore pride for the locals.

Well, Singapore quickly became an economic gateway for the Asian region and a powerhouse for modernity, architectural innovation and post-war progress. 

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And while the machine of perpetual change revved up, many of the old buildings were demolished and streets flattened to make way for high-rise. And through to the 1990s the gleaming, clean, sharp-edged city was a model for progress – and the city had lost its soul.

But a change of heart was beating through the city and old shophouses were given a new lease of life and were being restored at a rapid rate to stand proud and colourful to add charm and a sense of history to Singapore. And there were even new buildings, built in the old style to compliment this emerging trend of heritage entitlement. Old buildings painted and shining with the bright gleam of pride sit comfortably in the shadow of the glass and steel monoliths.

With many beautifully preserved examples, the shophouses in Singapore are prime examples of timeless architectural appeal. These are narrow units  built a neat row that explain and display Asian heritage and culture here more than any other structure – except maybe, for the temples.

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So many styles
Close up of the façade of shophouses along Keong Saik Road

Traditionally, a shophouse has a narrow frontage with a sheltered corridor at the front for pedestrians (called a five-foot way). They have internal courtyards, open stairwells and skylights to bring light and air into otherwise dark and narrow interiors.

Shophouses display different architectural influences, often depending on when they were built. Several periods have been identified when it comes to shophouse architecture.

There is the minimalist approach taken in the Early Style with little to no ornamentation, the austere elegance of the Second Transitional Style and the streamlined modernity of the Art Deco period, which eschewed rich detailing and tiling for sleek columns and arches instead.

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A brilliant mix
Patrons dining outside shophouses along Emerald Hill in the evening

It is the Late Style that is the most head-turning, with its bold use of colour and fancy tiles, as well as the eclectic mix of Chinese, Malay and European elements.

Think of Chinese porcelain-chip friezes and bat-wing shaped air vents co-existing with Malay timber fretwork, French windows, Portuguese shutters and Corinthian pilasters.

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Neighbourhoods of KatongChinatown, Tanjong Pagar and Emerald Hill boast many fine examples of the shophouses described above.

Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar and Emerald Hill boast many fine examples of the shophouses described above.

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Take a walk through these five-foot ways and see for yourself these beautiful examples of historic Singaporean architecture.

 

TIPS for taking better food shots

TIPS for taking better food shots

Want your meal to be envied? Your risotto remembered? Your cake catalogued? So, as an amateur, make sure you follow these suggestions.

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 Food and travel! Seems that everyone wants to photograph what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner . . . and in between. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Food and travel go together as we remember significant events, moments and meals in the countries we visit. Ah, that fragrant bowl of pho in Hanoi, the strudel in Vienna, those ribs in Chicago, baguettes and buttery croissants in Paris and the Balmain bugs in Sydney.

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So why not share the delectable dishes with friends on social media – but be discerning.

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This (above) tasted sensational – but does not look appealing in this shot.

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This is more like it!

Don’t get carried away with that fab vindaloo – in bad lighting it looks like a dish of dog food; or the bowl of chicken rice under neon lights – pale as –  and a piece of steak on a plate with a couple of veg is not as appealing as it will be in the mouth . . . in short, don’t paste images of food unless they look as good as they taste. Here are some tips for smart phone or tablet amateurs that will make your food shots sing, click!

  • Avoid overhead lights, which create a reflection on the plate. Stick to light that is off to the side, or angle your camera or device.

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  • Pull back from the dish for a wide shot to show napkins, utensils, cocktails or even a menu to create more action in the shot.

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  • If you want to take a detail shot, physically step closer to your subject instead of using the digital zoom. This goes for any phone photos. Digital zoom will just make your image pixelated. You’re better off cropping the photo afterwards.

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Rustic and real . . .

  • Did you know that you can control the exposure on your phone much like on a DSLR camera? When you open the camera app, focus on your subject manually with the touch of your finger. You will see a little image of a sun appear. If you slide your finger up and down the small bar that appears, you can control the amount of light in your photo even before you take the picture.

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  • Before posting to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, use apps such as VSCO or Snapseed to edit the photo further.
  • Avoid flash because it can create harsh lighting on one area of the shot.
  • When photographing sandwiches or filled rolls, wedge out some of the contents so the shot is not blocked by bread.

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  • Baked goods (cakes, bread, pastries, pies) can make for great shots because of the various textures.

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  • Oozing is attractive! Melted cheese oozing from a burger or chocolate pouring out of a pudding, this is ‘food action’ don’t miss the opportunity.
  • There’s a tool on almost all smartphone devices that allows you to overlay a grid onto every photo you’re taking. That way you can make sure that your lines are straight, or you can easily divide your frame into thirds. On an iPhone, you can find the ‘grid’ toggle in your photo and camera settings. For the Android/Galaxy, you should check the settings in your camera app.

Example of bad food shots. Left, in the Adelaide Markets, wonderful spices but I sure didn’t do them any favours! And right: this is the most magnificent cheese made in Spain – better eaten than photographed!

  • Your food/plate subject doesn’t have to take up the entire frame. You can let the food take up only a third of the frame. If there’s a simple backdrop you can place your food in front of, that works well. Dark or black backgrounds can create a dramatic contrast with your image.

Happy snapping.

Writer, Bev Malzard takes a lot of food pics on her travels and often surprises herself when she has forgotten to take a shot of a fabulous dish –  because she ate it.

First published in the e magazine at www.mydiscoveries.com

Before and after – I tried to resist eating the lot but this lamb . . . in a restaurant in Trujillo, Extremadura region Spain. 

 

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